Susquehanna Township resident Homer Floyd has experienced more than most.
All with the ability to name drop at parties like nobody else.
- A fraternity brother and civil rights partner with NBA great Wilt Chamberlain.
- He’s shared a stage with Martin Luther King Jr.
- Almost a backmate with Browns legend Jim Brown.
- The first black captain in Kansas football history.
But Floyd’s story wasn’t always easy.
However, it was worth it.
In the face of racism and hate, Floyd was a trailblazer.
“I found that there were some restaurants that would not serve us. I was turned away from houses that housed the students. I got a little tired of hearing ‘we don’t rent to colored,” says Floyd.
Floyd arrived on campus at Kansas University in 1955 in the face of segregation.
“I had a few instances in which I was called racial names. I remember as a freshman, the officials called five different roughing the runner calls. There was piling on. There was dirty stuff going on when you’re on the ground in which I was the victim of that,” says Floyd.
It was how Floyd chose to use that retaliation energy that would define his story.
“When something nasty like that happens to you, it makes you want to do something, but my coaches always told me ‘don’t get mad, get even. Be motivated to do better because of what he said to you as opposed to I wanna fight.’ He said ‘put your energy into something that is worth while and is positive,” says Floyd.
Wilt Chamberlain also attended the University of Kansas before his legendary NBA days.
It is there that the two not only crossed paths, but began important work together in civil rights activism.
“I came in at the same time Wilt came in. You look at Wilt and that’s like a whole tsunami coming at you,” laughingly says Floyd.
“But his very presence, we were able to petition the local leadership, but as individuals in our sport we were outspoken as well,” says Floyd.
The 1950s in Kansas were filled with racial tension.
Floyd was no stranger to the treatment that came along with it.
However, the field became a safe haven where races and different backgrounds could come together for one common goal.
“Even if you don’t like the guy next to you, that doesn’t affect you blocking the guy you’re supposed to block. First of all, just speak to a guy with a smile on your face in many instances that in of itself…’ooh he likes me. He’s a good guy!’ It’s that kind of gradually moving to ultimately you want everybody on the same page doing the same thing,” says Floyd.
Floyd received a historic number of smiles as an upperclassman.
He was voted co-captain of the team, making him the first black Kansas player to be named that honor.
“I felt like they’ve come a long ways. From not having contact with African Americans at all and voting me co-captain of the team? There’s something to be said for being one of the first or the first to do whatever. I look back and say gee I was lucky – being in the right place at the right time,” says a grinning Floyd.